A Complete and Thorough Defense of Atheism: Chapter 2
Dear Mr. Dogood,
I was not aware that I had signed myself up for a full-blown course in atheism. Thank you for that last little history.
Again, I assure you that I am perfectly convinced of the importance of being an atheist. I share your enthusiasm but lack your time for writing (or reading!) such long letters.
However, I must admit, your assertion that atheism is rare in this country is a bit surprising. I thought I saw it everywhere. I don’t think we are as doomed as you may appear to assert.
I am sure that if you truly felt as I do you would not be so impatient. But I am not discouraged; it only shows I have more work to do.
Yes, atheism is in bad shape. We have the media on our side, so we certainly do not appear as few as we are. Our groups may be small, but they are unabashedly vocal.
But the way that we must win the culture is through the teacher. In essence, every atheist must learn to some extent how to teach, be it among kindergarteners or college students or even adults. The school system is our greatest weapon. For what mind is more ready, what heart more unquestioningly accepting than a child’s? It is through the children that we must gain acceptance, for they are tomorrow’s scientists and leaders. And they must reject myth, or we will surely face extinction through the ignorance of the human species.
Of course, not everyone can be in such a scenario, but there are some simple strategies to be learned. Use evolution and millions of years as the key to explaining a child’s curiosity or a parent’s sincere questions; for though godlessness is revolting to most (at first glance), deep-time evolution is scientific fact and thus, more generally accepted. And it is millions of years of evolution that logically leads a mind to atheism.
If anyone asks of how their religion doesn’t seem to fit with science, explain the supremacy of evolution over religious faith, and if doubts still exist, send them to their religious leaders. For swaying these leaders – especially Christians, our greatest enemy – has already been accomplished, and in most cases they will encourage the children to compromise. For he, the church leader, honestly believes that his primitive superstitions can be mixed with modern reason.
But how does one get from compromise to pure science? That is quite simple. For when the child hits adolescence, he will begin to start questioning everything. This is, of course, the time through which he enters high school, and then college, which are intense secular training grounds in disguise. In high school, one learns that there are problems with his faith; in college, he is enlightened that he need not believe such contradictions.
Now, I wish to return to a point that I rather briefly skimmed over: that Christianity is our greatest threat. My reason for this claim is simple: it is this religious belief, and this alone, that exclusively forbids any notion of evolution. This I feel I must explain, for I also claimed that many church leaders have accepted it.
Let us return to the roots of religion. As far back as Greek polytheism, a primitive sort of evolutionary hypothesis was discovered and accepted by many. The disorder of polytheism leads the rational mind to something more rational, to atheism.
Other religions have the same sort of blending ability. Buddhism is in a sense atheistic in that it professes no faith in a god of any kind, so is perfectly compatible with evolution. In fact, the current Dalai Lama is a self-professed Buddhist Atheist.
Even a faith with such strict tenets as Islam can be easily mixed, as their creation story (as stated in the Koran, for they do not in entirety accept the Pentateuch’s creation story) is very vague and easily permits evolution and the required long ages. Muslim evolutionists are very quick to point out that their creation account is so much more compatible with science than the Christian’s.
Now I hear your rejection: Christians compromise all the time! That is true. And they are nothing near a great threat – they unwittingly help our cause. It is the fundamental group that I warn of.
You see, the Bible is very, very clear as to the origin of man and the universe, and it excludes beyond a doubt the logical possibility of deep-time evolution and creation blending together. There are hundreds of years’ worth of Hebrew scholars (including those today who almost unanimously agree with a compromised view of Genesis) who can and do grammatically prove the author of Genesis meant six literal days. The Christians who compromise evolution with the Bible anyway are our friends; they first show how silly it is to believe these stories, and then they show how incompatible evolution is with them by their own inane use of logic and grammar.
Unfortunately, literalist, fundamentalist Christians exist to this day, and it is they who show how deep-time evolution really is impossible to fit into their Bible. First, they reject science. They then claim to back up their religious blindness with pointing out errors in the research of scientists and the logic of our beliefs. It is these people to whom we owe a great deal of the culture still fighting the science of evolution and atheism.
How do you reason with such a group? The answer is simple: you can’t. They are so convinced of the fact of their own religion that they are blind to the truth. If you are, however, ever engaged in argument with such a fanatic, the best advice I can give you is to hit the age of the earth. If you can show the earth really is billions of years old, they haven’t got a stand; this means evolution, and then atheism, must be true.
I conclude thus: evolutionary thinking is the subtle door that leads to atheism. Compromise is the biggest step a religious person can take in reaching our beliefs. For once they have accepted evolution and millions of years, they will begin to try to fit their prior beliefs to science; the more they attempt this, the more contradictions they will push themselves into. Thus, your goal as an atheist must be to guide them to these steps. Compromised positions are infinitely easier to sway than fundamentalist ones. And finally, “He who owns the youth, gains the future.”
Dear Mr. Dogood,
I am quite confused at your tirade against religion; your position, your eagerness to talking to them, seems religious on your part.
People who practice religion, those who profess belief in God, do so because they don’t know any better, or because they need something to help them through the trials of life. While I believe every educated person will come to realize the logic of atheism and absurdity of religious dogma, it is important to show tolerance for those who believe (or want to believe) otherwise.
As far as Christianity goes, my family, at least, never took a stand on the whole Genesis thing. No one in church ever talked about it. While you attack those who ‘compromise’ as unwitting pawns in your game and literalists as blatantly biased, what of the majority of Christians, those who prefer to avoid Genesis and focus on the Gospel?
But perhaps it is these Christians who are most endangered by evolution. Having not much considered it, they miss any reason to not accept it. And according to you, acceptance leads to atheism.
I understand the freedom that comes from embracing atheism, and wish others to experience liberty from the bondage of religious rules, practices and superstitions. But forcing atheism on them (as you seem to imply) is not tolerant and seems too much like evangelistic efforts of Christians and Mormons and Muslims and such.
You accuse me of being religious. I can only reply that I am. Atheism, Naturalism, Relativism – all are perfectly religious in their very natures. Even famed scientist and evolutionist Richard Lewontin implies materialism to be an a priori commitment, i.e. a religious belief we hold to.
A religion is not necessarily a belief about any god or many gods or about spiritual things; it is simply one’s most basic knowledge of the world. One’s most basic knowledge cannot be proved; it can only be assumed. If this be the case it is faith-based and we use it to look at and interpret everything else.
How then do we know atheism to be true? Because it is rational, it is scientific, it is about what we can actually see and feel and know about the world around us. It does not deal with spiritual or sensational things we cannot prove in a laboratory.
Your second accusation is that I am not tolerant. Again, I agree with you; I am not, they are not, and no one ever can be.
How can I be tolerant of religious people who go about killing non-believers? How can they be tolerant of me, who dares reject their precious superstitions and rebel against their God? Even those who claim that they are tolerant or neutral cannot possibly be. For there will always be someone to rise up against them and shout, “I believe that only my faith is the truth – can you tolerate me? Can you tolerate my religion?”
We are engaged in a religious war. It has been going on since the dawn of man. If an ape has fantastical belief of a dance-ritual having some effect on his nut-cracking ability, will he gain more than an ape who reserves his energy for simply taking up a stone to pound it? You call me absurd; no ape would do such a thing; yet are we not all apes? Has not religious practice been observed in the earliest of our species’ history? And has not this fatuousness continued strong for the past two million years?
It has only been now that atheists have gotten the chance we’ve been waiting for; the chance to free the culture, the chance to change the world. Science and technology cannot hope to advance when people still believe in Floods and Babels and idols of the faith.
And so I conclude thus: atheism is dogmatic. Atheism is religious.
Dear Mr. Dogood,
I think I see your point. It’s surprising, but the more I think of it, and the more I read your letter, the more it seems to be correct.
But what exactly would atheism look like in society? What would a culture in which the majority were atheists look like? How would we change? How would our problems be solved? How would atheism, once overthrowing the superstitions of religion, manifest itself in a modern culture?